Heading to a casino? There are new guidelines to help minimize your gambling risks

Poker chips, dice and playing cards are seen in this file photo. (Pixabay / Pexels)

The Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA) has released new guidelines intended to help Canadians reduce the harm caused by gambling.

The guidelines were formed after five years of research into how those who gamble can lower risks, as well as understand when their gambling is starting to become more risky.

The CCSA recommends that Canadians gamble no more than one per cent of their household income before tax, gamble no more than four days per month, and keep regular gambling to two or fewer types of games.

It’s essential to follow all three guidelines in order to gamble with low risk, the agency said.

“Gambling is a legal activity that can pose risks to some people in Canada, including financial hardships, relationship conflicts, emotional or psychological distress, and health issues,” Matthew Young, co-chair of the Lower-Risk Gambling Guidelines Scientific Working Group, explained in a press release.

“These guidelines will help people in Canada who gamble do so in a way that lowers their risk of experiencing these problems.”

The guidelines seem simple, but there is a lot behind them.

Researchers analyzed data from more than 60,000 people who gamble across eight different countries, and looked at feedback from more than 10,000 Canadians who answered an online gambling survey.

They also interviewed individuals across Canada, spoke to focus groups of people who gamble, and consulted experts in harm reduction, treatment and the issues that can stem from gambling.

The three guidelines are the result of the first large-scale comprehensive project to develop lower-risk gambling guidelines.

“Until now, our best advice to people who gamble was to set personal spending and time limits,” David Hodgins, professor of psychology at the University of Calgary and co-chair of the working group, said in the release. “We can now provide more specific direction on what these limits should be, based upon the experiences of tens of thousands of individuals.”  

Gambling can lead to not only financial damage, but also relationship conflicts, emotional and psychological distress, and health problems, such as exacerbating substance abuse issues.

Around one to three per cent of Canadians struggle with a gambling disorder, but the effects of gambling can extend across all of those who gamble, as well as their families.

In the process of developing these guidelines, researchers discovered that the more days a person gambled a month, the more likely they were to bet more money than they could afford, with this risk going up significantly after a person spent a week permonth gambling.

Survey data showed that 30 per cent of those reporting financial harm from gambling had gambled 24 days per month. Fifteen per cent of those who gambled seven days out of the month reported that they bet more than they could afford.

A graphic from the report expanding on the development of these guidelines provided more detail about the three points.

The graph showedthat gambling only one per cent of your household income before tax means that those making $10,000 per year should only gamble $8 a month, while those who make $150,000 should gamble no more than $125 a month.

The types of gambling a person partakes in include things like horse racing, card games, slots, sports outcomes, scratch tickets, and online poker, among others.

Along with these guidelines, researchers came up with other tips.

They stated that there is a strong association between substance use disorders and problem gambling, and that limiting substance use while gambling can help reduce it.

If a person has a special event or trip coming up where they’ll be gambling, it’s helpful to set limits ahead of time. Limiting access to money by leaving credit cards at home on some excursions, or downloading apps that prevent your phone from making payments can help.

CCSA recommends scheduling plans right after gambling sessions, to prevent a session from going longer than originally planned, and thinking about whether gambling alone or with others changes your behaviour.

Thinking about how much money can be allotted to “entertainment” can also help as well.

More information about the guidelines and other tips can be found on the new website, gamblingguidelines.ca, where Canadians can find more resources, as well as a risk assessment tool, which is expected to launch later in the fall.

The report added that although these guidelines should limit risk for most individuals, it may not work for everyone.

“You should consider gambling less than these guidelines recommend or not at all if you experience problems from alcohol, cannabis or other drug use, experience problems with anxiety or depression, [or] have a personal or family history of problems with gambling,” the report stated.

“Think about your reasons for gambling. Is it for fun? If you’re gambling to escape problems, you’re more likely to experience harm from gambling and might find it harder to stick to the suggested limits.”